NORAD: Tracking Santa Claus on Christmas Eve

by JoHarrington

NORAD watches the skies in defense of Canada and the USA. But it's not just potential missiles they might spot on one magical night.

Do you want to see Father Christmas flying on his rounds on Christmas Eve?

Of course you do! Who wouldn't want to watch that?! He has presents in his sack and they might have your name on them! (Depending on how good you've been, naturally.)

In these days of technology, watching the skies happens all of the time. NORAD are doing it to keep the Americas safe and sound. But on this magical night they also track a very, very special man.

Father Christmas Flying All Over the World on December 24th

Children everywhere know that Santa is coming. Meanwhile, the internet is watching him do it!

North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD) is part of the military. Their command center is in Colorado Springs, in the USA, and their motto is stark: Deter. Detect. Defend.

The men and women of NORAD are watching the skies. If enemies should ever attempt to hurt their nation, then they will spring into action.Generals will be alerted; the President will be told; and they will do all that they can to keep their country safe and sound. But there's one foreign vessel that they want to see flying over America and Canada.

On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus leaves the North Pole (or Lapland, I've heard) to fly over the world delivering presents to all the good children. With the NORAD personnel so vigilant, it's hardly surprising that they know precisely when he has entered their airspace.

Even better, they have put this information on the internet. Now children (and, let's face it, adults too!) can track Father Christmas as he makes his journey around the globe.

Screenshot from NORAD Tracks Santa

This was taken just after noon in Britain, when he was in the Kuril Islands
Father Christmas in Urup, Kuril Islands
Father Christmas in Urup, Kuril Islands

Watch Father Christmas via these Links

Please note that these are only live on Christmas Eve.

Santa is too busy making toys the rest of the year; and he doesn't want you tracking him while he does that!

What Does NORAD Know About Santa?

They work in the defence of the USA and Canada. They know everything!

One of the best services that NORAD have provided is a frequently asked questions page. This has some amazing information!

As an historian, I want to know all of their past information on Santa Claus. It seems that even before NORAD was formed, American's intelligence agencies were tracking his progress over their country.

As early as 1955, when Continental Air Defense Command (CONRAD) were active, they were able to see the big man flying over them.

The geeks amongst you will love the technical data provided. It includes everything that NORAD have been able to confirm about his magical sleigh and the reindeer pulling it. It's an impressive file, but even NORAD have to admit to some limitations.

From the FAQ, we learn that only the man himself knows his actual route. NORAD can't guarantee where he will be in advance. Sadly, this means that they can't tell precisely when he'll visit each individual house.

There is a wealth of knowledge to be had on this webpage, which should provide professional answers to any question that you could possibly have about Father Christmas.

NORAD Tracks Father Christmas

These are just some of the highlights from Christmasses past. It will happen again, when NORAD tracks Santa in 2014.

Why Does NORAD Track Santa Claus?

There is no need to be worried about the military watching Santa. They're on his side!

NORAD have to track Father Christmas, because he's in North American airspace. If they didn't keep an eye on everything flying around up there, they would soon be in trouble with President Obama!

However, NORAD have also provided us with a little more information about why they've made this data public. It seems that, in 1955, a Colorado store arranged for Santa to receive telephone calls from local children.

Unfortunately the advertisement had misprinted the number to call!  Instead of going directly to Santa, the kids found themselves talking to Colonel Harry Shoup, the commander-in-chief of NORAD.

Unwilling to disappoint the children, Colonel Shoup turned to what he knew. He switched on his computer and used hi-tech equipment to confirm that Santa was indeed on his way. He obviously couldn't take wish lists, but he could tell them a lot of things, including that the US military knew for a fact that Father Christmas was real.

The service might have been born of a mistake, but NORAD realized from the response that children wanted to know this stuff. For decades, their staff volunteered to answer the 'phones, as the number was legitimately circulated this time. Every Christmas Eve, they would be there, telling kids where Santa currently was in the world.

Once the internet was invented, things became much easier. Now he can be tracked in real time and children just have to log on to see the data for themselves!

Season's greetings, one and all.

Santa Claus Gift Ideas

Lots of Father Christmas toys, games and goodies for some festive fun.

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Updated: 11/24/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 12/25/2011

I watched him go to Spain, then head on to Africa. Then I was side-tracked by fixing a friend's computer via Crossloop. When I looked again, he was in Derry! I figured I'd better rush to bed, as he'd patently flown over my house and seen I was still awake. He would have had to come back to Britain just to deal with my house, before he could go to the Americas. Ooops!

pkmcr on 12/25/2011

Love it! We alway use this to track Santa across the World :-)

JoHarrington on 12/24/2011

kajohu - There's usually a group of us in our 30s and 40s watching him cross the world. Your boys are still nippers compared to us!

sheilamarie - It's half 7 pm here, so there's still a bit of time. Santa doesn't come until you are asleep. That's confirmed by NORAD in their FAQ too.

Frances - I'm glad. <3

FrancesSpiegel on 12/24/2011

I love this article

sheilamarie on 12/24/2011

I hope he makes it to your house soon. I'll be watching for him tonight in British Columbia, but somehow I usually fall asleep before he makes it down our chimney.

kajohu on 12/24/2011

I love it :-) Even though my boys are now in their 20's, I bet they'll get a kick out of this page and the thought of watching where NORAD has tracked Santa Claus! Merry Christmas!

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